"Real liberty is neither found in despotism or the extremes of democracy, but in moderate governments.
Alexander Hamilton

Tuesday, February 2, 2016

Once again, just the facts

I feel a need to get a bit ahead of a  letter to the editor in today's Laconia Daily Sun about the proposed Community Center. I agree that voters need to have clear and accurate information as we head into Town meeting. I take strong and personal exception though to statements such as this proposal is based on " fictitious" numbers.  I recognize that people have strong opinions and feelings on this topic, but the record needs to be set straight  so that we can once and for all bring this matter to a fair and rational conclusion. Facts, not emotions or personal biases should rule the day.

Hey if there was anyone that needed convincing about getting true facts and figures to change my mind on this issue, it would be me. I was able to put aside my own bias and came to the data driven conclusion that there is indeed insufficient gym space. 
But the letter writer implies that voters do not have the " facts" and " all options " should be vetted first. How many times should we do that? The Blue Ribbon Commission, led to the UNH Feasibility Study and then the vetting of the UNH study by a town team that I chaired. It left no stone unturned. Every one of the UNH recommendations was reviewed in great detail. The "studies" have been almost ongoing since 2010. They all reached the same conclusions. The problem it would appear is that some do not like those conclusions. I can't really fix that. 
And paper schedules don't count? Why not? Did the school participate with the rec department in a mass conspiracy to misrepresent the gym usage? Lets not forget that these are real kids, in real programs, with real parents. They are also real coaches as well, volunteers. Ask them about gym capacity.  I stand by the study of the gyms utilization and the conclusion that the spaces are utilized to full capacity. 
The continued misrepresentation that using the multipurpose room for basketball practice will free up the MCS gym is simply not correct. The Blue Ribbon Commission had this to say about the multi purpose room: "While this room remains a well functioning room for the school and community, it is unsafe for many recreational uses...The BRC did consider alterations to this room that might make it more useful in addressing the Recreation Department needs, such as removal of the stage and different storage options for tables. The BRC’s opinion is that the cost of these changes, inconvenience of moving equipment daily to maintain the multiple uses of the room, and the potential programming impacts on other types of school’s non-athletic programs outweigh the short term benefits that would be derived."
The UNH report had this to say: "Gym/Cafeteria/Multipurpose Room is not at all adequate as a suitable gym facility for sports such as basketball due to its size, conditions of the backboards and rims, and the danger posed by having the auditorium stage right on the basketball baseline. In addition, the height of the basketball hoops cannot be raised or lowered based on the needs of different age groups. The space could possibly be used for activities like recreational dance, fencing, pickleball, group fitness, gymnastics, dodgeball, or any number of creative afterschool physical activities. The lack of storage creates challenges for effectively running these activities in this space."

As to the Lions Club not being vetted for possible rehab or renovation, the UNH had this recommendation ( highlight is mine):"Our recommendation is that if the town elects not to build a new indoor recreation/community center, then there should be some investment in the Lion’s Club building so that it can be functional to meet the needs for senior and civic activity space expressed in this process." We have been 100% consistent with that recommendation.

But this isn't just about kids. The letter writer misses the point that we have been making for many months: it's about all age groups, truly multi-generational in purpose.
What a horrible concept it would seem to propose a centerpiece in the heart of the village that all age groups can use and scores of community activities can be held. Where activities for young and old currently spread out all around town can be under one roof. A place that can truly be a long lasting asset to anchor a revitalized village. Oh the horror of it all!Not to mention placing it in the perfect location " on or adjacent to school property."
I'm not afraid to stand up for what I believe it nor am I afraid to change my mind on an issue. In this case, and after consideration of the many reports and studies as well as the Village Vision and Master Plan, the data clearly speaks in favor of this concept.
There is sufficient time between now and Town meeting to get the real facts. The Rec Department, our TA and the BoS all can answer any questions you pose.